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Say It Ain’t So – A DNF Lowell?

For my February Prime borrow on Kindle I picked up Elizabeth Lowell's, "Golden Mountain."   It now appears to be free, so you might want to pick it up and give it a read.  Your opinion could certainly vary from that of a crazy duck lady, because IMHO - this is one to pass on.  And I can't believe I said that about a Lowell romance!

I love every Lowell book I've ever read with the exception of this one.  Ms. Lowell is an amazingly talented author, but this book just didn't do it for me.  I couldn't finish it.  I read about 10 to 15% of the book before I put it away.  I only read that much because it was a Lowell so I kept waiting for it to pick me up and get me involved.  Except that never happened.  Not only did I not get involved, I dreaded picking up my Fire and would make excuses why I couldn't read more just now.  That's when I knew that I had to let this one go because normally I steal time from writing to read.  I was a romance fan a long time before I was a romance author, after all. 

Why didn't I like this one?  First, it took way too long to get started.  The first part was the heroine following her father around and assisting him while he took photos of  Chinese miners and mining communities.  When the father died - very early in the book (not a *spoiler*) -  the heroine wandered off to Seattle to take photos.  Then we're treated to long, expansive descriptions of the Chinese community in Seattle.  By the time I put it down the story seemed almost ready to go somewhere, but by then I didn't care.  In a romance, I want to feel tension between the hero and the heroine fairly quickly.  I'm okay with a few pages of backstory, but get me involved first, then feed me the history.

My other big problem with this book was that it wasn't clear from the get go who the hero was.  There were 2 brothers - one good guy and one wild one.  It seemed that the good guy would be the hero, but the first chemistry we read about occurs between the heroine and the wild brother.  I wasn't even sure if the good guy could be the hero because there was a reference to the good guy having slept with the heroine's newly discovered step-mother, a prostitute for one of the Chinese crime lord big shots we read far too much about.  That made me feel icky about the good guy brother.  Of course the good guy could have turned out to be the bad guy and the wild one could have been the real good guy. 

My biggest problem with the book was that the lack of clarity about the hero made me feel unsure of the story.  I'm okay with a hero that starts out with issues.  I'm okay if he is the biggest rogue in the galaxy.  I know that once he meets the heroine, he'll change.  Oh, he'll be unwilling to change and perturbed with the world at large because he is changing.  But by the end of the story, I'll have been with him through his changes and I'll adore him.  But that can only happen if I'm clear that I should be rooting for him instead of finding him annoying.

I hate romances where the heroine is torn between two men.  Or at least, I generally hate them.  I recall that "Whitney, My Love" was an exception to that rule.   Golden Mountain could have been an exception too - it should have been, because it was written by Lowell.  The difference between Whitney and Golden is that we knew who the hero and heroine were in Whitney and we saw chemistry between the hero and heroine early on - even if the heroine didn't see it yet. 

I guess Elizabeth Lowell can't be perfect every time.  So she's only "almost" perfect.  If I ever achieve "almost" perfect I'll rent out an airplane and skywrite it.  I'll buy TV time and advertise it.  But I won't start budgeting for that just yet...

If I were you, I'd give "Golden Mountain" a pass and pick up Lowell's "Only" books instead.    I got them while they were $1.99.  Of course, they're old favorites but now they have space on my Fire.  It looks like HarperCollins is running "rolling" $1.99 specials on a bunch of Ms. Lowell's work.  Trust me, pick those up and pass on "Golden Mountain."